Firsthand Reporting of Nigeria’s Abducted Schoolgirls

Protesters in Kano rally for the return of Nigeria’s abducted schoolgirls.
Protesters in Kano rally for the return of Nigeria’s abducted schoolgirls.

"Too Terrifying for Words," Says One Who Escaped

"CNN's Nima Elbagir, Lillian Leposo and Nick Migwe made the dangerous journey to Chibok, Nigeria, to gather firsthand accounts of the abduction of the schoolgirls — and how people in the northeastern town are still living in fear," according to an editor's note introducing this CNN story on Monday:

"The terrifying news began to spread before the gun-wielding Islamist militants made it into Chibok last month. Villagers began to receive cell phone calls that the feared extremist group Boko Haram was on the way.


"No one knew what the attack would entail, that it would mean hundreds of schoolgirls plucked from their beds by a group of extremists who would later threaten to sell them.

" 'It's like they were coming for a shopping trip,' a villager who witnessed the attack told CNN.

"Some lucky girls managed to escape that night when, after they were loaded into cargo trucks, they made a dash for freedom.

" 'We would rather die than go,' one of the girls told CNN. 'We ran into the bush. We ran and we ran.'

"With fear in her eyes and voice, the young woman, who asked not to be identified, described the experience to a CNN crew that made the long, dangerous trip to her village.  . . ."

CNN was not alone in interviewing escapees. The Associated Press reported, "One of the girls who escaped from the terrorists' camp has expressed fears of returning to school, describing the kidnapping as 'too terrifying for words.'


"Science student Sarah Lawan, 19, told The Associated Press that more of the girls could have escaped but that they were frightened by their captors' threats to shoot them.

"Lawan spoke in Hausa language in a phone interview from Chibok, her home. . . ."


Meanwhile, the AP's Haruna Umar and Michelle Faul reported that Agence France-Presse had obtained a 17-minute video in which "The self-declared leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram says he will release the 276 schoolgirls being held hostage in exchange for prisoners."

They also wrote that "one of the teenagers who escaped from Islamic extremists . . . is now scared to go back to school. Sarah Lawan, a 19-year-old science student, spoke Sunday . . ."


In the United States, three Nigerian journalists disputed the veracity of reports that there had been sightings of the missing girls of Chibok, Tracie Powell reported for

Powell wrote that she spoke via Google Hangout Monday with Dapo Olorunyomi, managing editor of the Premium Times of Nigeria and founder of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Reporting; Nosa Igiebor, managing editor of Nigeria's Tell Magazine; and writer Benjamin Edokpayi, a freelance journalist who has reported in Nigeria and the United States.


"The three journalists said limited resources, proximity to Chibok, and flawed information from government officials have hindered their coverage over the past month. They also discuss the precautions they have to take in covering a story that is receiving international attention but is deeply personal for them. 'We’re journalists, but we're also Nigerian,' Igiebor said," Powell wrote.

"Despite their challenges, the journalists said they are still better at reporting the story than international news correspondents because Nigerian reporters are more familiar with the terrain and the people, and because international news organizations have cut back and eliminated so many of their foreign news bureaus. . . ."


Frida Ghitis, CNN: Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls 

D.A. Lovell, The Root: Why I Can’t Get Behind #BringBackOurGirls

Evan McMurry, Mediaite: Allen West: Focus on Boko Haram Is Obama Ploy to Distract from Benghazi


Media Matters for America: Limbaugh: "We Can't Call" Boko Haram "Terrorists Because They Look Like African Americans"

News Agency of Nigeria: Lagos Journalists Protest Abduction of Chibok Girls

Adam Nossiter, New York Times: In Town of Missing Girls, Sorrow, but Little Progress


Deborah Orr, the Guardian, Britain: The story of Nigeria's stolen girls fell through the gaps of western journalism

Racial Gap Persists Among Kids Who Read and Are Read To

Government test scores indicate that white students continue to score 21 or more points higher in reading proficiency, on average, than black or Hispanic students, according to a research report released on Monday.


"Only 18% of black and 20% of Hispanic fourth graders are rated as 'proficient' in reading, compared with 46% of whites. The size of this 'proficiency gap' has been largely unchanged over the past two decades. . . ."

Overall, said the report by Common Sense Media, which largely summarizes existing research, reading rates have dropped precipitously among adolescents.


"Society has reached a major transition point in the history of reading. From children's earliest ages, 'reading' used to mean sitting down with a book and turning pages as a story unfolded. Today it may mean sitting down with a device that offers multimedia experiences and blurs the line between books and toys. At the same time, for older children, much daily communication is now handled in short bursts of written text, such as text messages, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets. All of this has led to a major disruption in how, what, when, and where children and teens read, and there is much we don't yet know. . . ."

In a section on race and ethnicity, the report [PDF] says, in "the Kaiser study (Rideout & Hamel, 2006), Hispanic children were found to spend an average of 15 minutes less per day reading than black children and 20 minutes less than non-Hispanic white children. . . . Northwestern's study of 0- to 8-year olds found a similar rate of reading among Hispanic and non-Hispanic white children, at :52 and :55 a day, respectively, while parents of black children reported 1:08 a day in reading.


"With regard to the likelihood of a child being a daily reader, both the Kaiser (Rideout & Hamel, 2006) and Common Sense (2013) studies found substantial differences across all three variables. For example, the Common Sense study of 0- to 8-year-olds in 2013 found a 22 percentage-point difference in the proportion of white vs. Hispanic children who read or are read to on a daily basis and a 19 percentage-point difference between white and black children. . . .

"In the U.S., white students score substantially higher on reading literacy tests than black or Hispanic students ([National Center for Education Statistics], 2011, 2013). According to NCES data, 'White students continued to score 21 or more points higher on average than black and Hispanic students in 2012.' The Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s Michael Levine (2012) notes that this is a difference of about two grade levels. The degree to which these differences may be a result of economic or other issues cannot be known from the available data. . . .


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: In College, Nurturing Matters

Dolly Chugh, Katherine L. Milkman and Modupe Akinola, New York Times: Professors Are Prejudiced, Too


William Worthy, 92, Defied Government, Traveled World

"William Worthy, a Baltimore Afro-American newspaper correspondent who made news — and inspired a folk song — by challenging U.S. policies to report from China and Cuba in the 1950s and '60s, died May 4 at a senior living facility in Brewster, Mass., Emily Langer reported Monday for the Washington Post. "He was 92.


"The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease, said a friend, Michael Lindsey.

"The son of an obstetrician, Mr. Worthy grew up in Boston in a family that was active in progressive causes and that encouraged his intellectual development from an early age. He called himself 'anti-colonialist, anti-militarist, anti-imperialist.' . . ."


Bryan Marquard wrote May 7 in the Boston Globe, "As a reporter in the late 1950s and early ’60s, William Worthy interviewed a constellation of Communist leaders in their homelands: Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, Chou En-lai in China, Fidel Castro in Cuba.

"When his reporting defied US rules prohibiting visits to foreign foes, though, the Boston-born journalist became part of the news he covered. On Christmas Eve 1956, he slipped into China and broadcast reports for CBS. Upon returning to his Nieman fellowship studies at Harvard, the government refused to renew his passport unless he constrained his travel, and he challenged the State Department ruling all the way to the US Supreme Court.


"Mr. Worthy, who was 92 when he died Sunday evening in the Epoch nursing home in Brewster, lost that legal battle and did not get a passport for about a decade. But he prevailed in skirmishes with the federal government over subsequent reporting trips. In the process, he set a constitutional precedent in passport law and inspired a protest song, 'The Ballad of William Worthy,' which folk singer Phil Ochs recorded on his 1964 debut album 'All the News That’s Fit to Sing'."

Langer also reported, "He claimed conscientious objector status during World War II and later pursued a career in journalism with multiple outlets, most prominently with the Baltimore Afro-American. In 1956, along with two other journalists, he defied State Department travel restrictions to visit Communist-led China. At the time he held a Nieman fellowship, a prestigious honor in journalism; Time magazine reported that he was the first U.S. reporter to enter China in seven years. . . ."


Worthy was special assistant to the dean of the Howard University School of Communications, where he taught from 1990 to 1993 as an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Professor. In 2008, the Nieman Foundation gave Worthy the Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.

Nieman Reports: Remembering William Worthy

Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root: Who Was Black America's 1st Investigative Journalist?

Advertisement William Worthy

Liberal Media Called Out Again on Lack of Diversity

"On the staff of The American Prospect, I’m the only member of an ethnic minority," senior editor Gabriel Arana wrote Monday for the American Prospect.


"That's not because I bring all the variety the magazine needs, or because the editors don't think diversity is valuable. Everyone on the masthead of this liberal publication is committed to being inclusive — not just of racial and ethnic minorities but of women; gays, lesbians, and transgender people; and the poor.

"It's not just the Prospect. Journalism upstarts like Vox Media and FiveThirtyEight have come under fire recently for lack of diversity in their hires, but that's largely because they are drawing from the milky-white pool of 'existing talent.' In the corner of the publishing industry that caters to college-educated wonks — a slightly fuzzy designation, but I've included most of the publications my colleagues and I read on a daily basis — racial and ethnic diversity is abysmal."


Above an accompanying graphic depicting diversity at 12 outlets is this note: "(Numbers include only editorial staff. Have updated numbers? Send us an e-mail.)"

Arana continued, "Nearly 40 percent of the country is non-white, but the number of minorities at the outlets included in this article's tally — most of them self-identified as liberal or progressive — hovers around 10 percent. The Washington Monthly can boast 20 percent, but that's because it only has nine staffers in total, two of whom belong to minority groups). Dissent, like the Prospect, has one. Given the broad commitment to diversity in our corner of the publishing world, why is the track record so poor? . . ."


Arana's piece is the latest of "unbearable whiteness" articles about the media, dating at least to James Ledbetter's 'The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing' in the Village Voice in 1995, the same year Katha Pollit of the Nation called out her progressive magazine colleagues.

The Arana article was teased on the Huffington Post Media page as, "The Liberal Media Problem No One Talks About."


Or maybe "no one" is paying attention when they are.

Dylan Byers, Politico: The unbearable whiteness of being (2013)

Michael A Deas, Al Jazeera: New media, old problem: Where's the diversity? (April 14)


Tracie Powell, Yahoo’s Perfect Opportunity to Cash-In On More Diverse Audiences

Lizzy Ratner, New York Observer: Vanilla Ceiling: Magazines Still Shades Of White (2006)


Rachel Sklar, Daily Beast: The Unbearable Whiteness of Cable (2010)

Unity Names Executive Director After Nearly Two Years

Unity: Journalists for Diversity, which has worked with interim executive directors since 2012, when Onica M. Makwakwa left after six years, Monday named Roberto Quiñones, who has worked with several organizations, to the job.


"Quiñones comes to UNITY with a career of operational and diversity leadership responsibilities across commercial and nonprofit organizations. He has held varied positions at AT&T, AARP, the American Alliance of Museums, and served as executive director of the Tortilla Industry Association," an announcement said. "His diversity experiences include helping create and develop the Hispanic Association of AT&T Employees and Project Blueprint of the Somerset County United Way, serving on ASAE’s Diversity Committee as a Diversity Executive Leadership Program alumnus, and currently serving on the American Red Cross’ National Diversity Advisory Council. . . ."

Unity was called "Unity: Journalists of Color" during the Makwakwa years. The National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists left over financial and governance issues. The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association joined, the name was changed and the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association remained members.


Unity President David Steinberg, asked how many candidates and how many finalists sought the executive director's job, replied, "We aren't releasing that information."

Asked why, he responded, "Standard policy for confidentiality/personnel reasons. I think it's OK, however, to say there were around 40 candidates who applied."


Lack of transparency, particularly on financial matters, was cited by NABJ and NAHJ as among their reasons for leaving.

NAHJ Creates "Media Watch" After Cinco de Mayo Segment

In the wake of a flap over MSNBC's coverage of the Cinco de Mayo celebration, for which the network apologized, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is creating a "Media Watch" committee to monitor coverage members think is "disparaging, inappropriate, inaccurate or unfair," Mekahlo Medina, NAHJ's vice president/broadcast, told members on Monday.


"NAHJ has set up this Facebook page and this email ( Anytime you see coverage you think is disparaging, inappropriate, inaccurate or unfair you should post the coverage on the Facebook page or email it to [the mailbox above].

"I've asked former NAHJ President Cecilia Alvear and NAHJ LA President Cesar Arredondo to initially become the "Media Watch" committee that will monitor the Facebook page and email account. They will consult with NAHJ President Hugo Balta on items you alert us to."


The National Association of Black Journalists has a Media Monitoring Committee and the Asian American Journalists Association a Media Watch Committee.

During a segment of MSNBC's "Way Too Early" last week, Louis Burgdorf wandered around the newsroom wearing a sombrero and drinking tequila straight from the bottle, while the words "Mexican Heritage Celebration" appeared on the screen. He and Thomas Roberts apologized on the air.


Merrill Knox, TV Newser: Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas Reacts to ABC, MSNBC Cinco de Mayo Coverage

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: Not So Proud Peacocks

Michael Sam's Kiss Is Business as Usual for Networks

"The handsome football player gets drafted by an NFL team, plants an emotional kiss on his sweetheart and gives sportscasts a feel-good video clip," Lynn Elber reported Monday for the Associated Press.


"It's a scene that plays out for dozens of draft picks.

"But when a sobbing Michael Sam celebrated his selection by the St. Louis Rams by hugging and kissing his partner, another man, it made real and physical that an openly gay athlete had taken an unprecedented step toward an NFL career.


"For some, the reaction was joy. For others, there was dismay or even anger. For the networks that carried and repeatedly aired the scene, it was business as usual.

"Producer Seth Markman, who oversees NFL draft coverage for ESPN, said that in the extensive preparation for Sam's possible draft, 'we never had one discussion about, "What if he's drafted, his partner's there and they kiss?" Honestly, it never came up.'


"He suggested a possible generational split over how much it matters. . . ."

Corey Dade, The Root: The NFL Is Not Ready for Michael Sam: His Kiss Disgusts Fellow Player

Edward Wyckoff Williams, The Root: Michael Sam: What He Means to Young Gay Black Men

Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: ESPN Host: I Respect Those Who Don’t Want Michael Sam Kiss ‘In Their Face’


Chinese Americans Star in Take 2 of Iconic Photo

"East finally met West 145 years ago on America's first transcontinental railroad," Hansi Lo Wang wrote Saturday for NPR's "Code Switch" blog.


"The symbolic hammering of a golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, completed the connection between the country's two coasts and shortened a cross-country trip of more than six months down to a week.

"Much of the building was done by thousands of laborers brought in from China, but their faces were left out of photographs taken on that momentous day." A photo caption noted, "The original photo commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 did not include Chinese laborers. . . ."


Wang continued, "So, in 2002, [Corky] Lee gathered a group of Chinese-Americans at that same location in northern Utah to re-create the historic shot, and he did it again on Saturday with some descendants of those Chinese laborers.. . ."

Randall Yip, AsAm News: Corky Lee stages "an act of photographic justice" for Asian Americans


Unsafe to Relocate Journalists to Refugee Camps, Groups Say

"Today, CPJ partnered with Reporters Without Borders and Rory Peck Trust in a joint open letter calling on Kenya's Cabinet Secretary of Interior, Joseph Ole Lenku, to provide clarity on the government's refugee policy and to exempt journalists from forced relocation to the refugee camps," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday.


"On March 25, Lenku ordered all urban refugees to relocate to one of two refugee camps in a bid to tighten security amid continuing violence, including an attack on a church in Mombasa. His order came despite the fact that a similar government directive in 2012 was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

"Collective research by our three organizations shows that exiled Somali and Ethiopian journalists are not safe in Kenya's refugee camps, where Ethiopian security agents and Somalia's Al-Shabaab militants operate — the very same threats that most such journalists fled in the first place.


"Meanwhile, life for refugee journalists in Nairobi has been made even harder than usual. Kenyan police conduct nightly raids on the homes of Somali refugees, demanding bribes to avoid forceful relocation to the camps, local journalists say. . . .

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: Like “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms” on Facebook.

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.